Our staff’s weekly devotions are from a book by an experienced pastor whose one-page reflections are well written and usually right on. A recent one was on advancing the kingdom of God in church life. His description of what should and can happen through grace was well said. But he missed the key ingredient—the Holy […]Read More
Christianity has a long history of reference to the Ten Commandments to identify sins that need to be exposed, confessed, and repented of. This is basic to a biblical view of sin and salvation. But in the new post-modern culture, holding unbelievers to this standard does not work so well as a starting point. Better […]Read More
Transformation into a different personality is something God’s Spirit does to and for us. Our part is to spend time in the Spirit’s workshop—believers gathered around God’s Word and sharing its meaning for them. What about a more aggressive approach? What can we do to move ourselves along more quickly to become more like Christ? […]Read More
I derive satisfaction from figuring out how Christ’s Spirit can change and even transform human personalities. Some of my insight on this comes from listening to a Learning Company recorded lecture by Dr. Andrew Newberg. Then I read his book The Spiritual Brain: Science and Religious Experience. Better yet was when he teamed up with […]Read More
At a retreat, I was sitting next to a physician who was the radiologist at the local community hospital. The speaker told about the miracle that happened when his wife was diagnosed with cancer. Just before surgery, they took another X-ray. The cancer was gone. I asked the radiologist, “Does that really happen?” “More often […]Read More
According to Jesus, the Spirit really does influence humans and their behavior. As he explained to Nicodemus, pneuma “influences” pneuma (John 3: 6). The Greek pneuma is used in English to mean wind or air, as in pneumatic tools that work with high air pressure. In context, it is clear that Jesus was talking about […]Read More
“Music is an outstanding gift of God and next to theology. It is an endowment and a gift of God, not a gift of men. It makes people cheerful; one forgets all anger, unchasteness, pride, and other vices. I place music next to theology and give it the highest praise.” So observed Martin Luther. Music […]Read More
What will church cultures look like in America as it transitions into the post-Christian era? Pivotal for my understanding of a fresh perspective on church life was the study of Gordon Fee’s 967-page book God’s Empowering Presence (1994)—his careful and thorough study of the 169 references to the Spirit in the Apostle Paul’s letters. He […]Read More
How much energy a congregation has is reflected in how well participants give of their “time, talents, and treasures.” Many other good causes are approaching them for those same personal resources. What makes a congregation’s fellowship different?
The answer gets easy when you recognize a gathering of believers as a “fellowship of the Holy Spirit.” This is the distinctive function the Apostle Paul gives the Spirit in his benediction “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.”
Fellowship too often gets trivialized as shallow social interaction. But a key part of a fellowship of the Holy Spirit is the special motivation the Spirit can provide believers gathered around God’s Word. Hearing Scripture proclaimed is basic. But the energy level goes up when participants share what God is doing in their personal lives….Read More
Think about a church’s “spiritual energy” as the total of hours and dollars participants give to the shared life and work of that congregation. Now consider these observations from church consultant Ed Stetzer:
1. The Spirit-oriented Pentecostal and charismatic movements continue to expand, and many are shying away from oddities and excesses in their past, like speaking in tongues.
2. Evangelicals are moving toward the theology of Spirit-filled and Spirit-led ministries.
3. Forty years ago, 30% of the US population self-identified with mainline denominations; now it is about 15%. Their loss of energy is most obvious in empty pews and buildings.
A good way for a traditional church to regain spiritual energy is to focus more on how the Holy Spirit energizes Christian fellowships. Classical Lutheran and Calvinist theology left the biblical teachings on the Third Person of the Trinity poorly developed.
My intent is to offer fresh perspectives on what Jesus teaches about his Spirit and how Paul explains the role of the Spirit in Christian church life. Ultimately the Spiritual energy of a congregation is a reflection of how well the Spirit has energized the individual participants, who add their energy to that church’s fellowship.
A modern term gives focus to the Spirit’s work. It is “motivation”— the understanding of what moves people into action. There is no clear biblical equivalent. Motivation provides the missing link in the classical theology of justification by grace through faith, not by works. The act of trusting God’s love and accepting the free gift of Christ’s redemption brings us into the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, who is God’s empowering presence. Christ’s Spirit works on our hearts and brings new priorities that motivate our behaviors. In addition to being saved as a gift of grace, we can also live by the gifts of the Spirit as a second kind of grace.Read More
Waiting at our local Conrad’s Tire and Auto, I saw a hard-covered book on the history of this 30-store chain. It was started after the War by Joan and Ed Conrad. They were and are a staunch Irish Catholic family. They and their kids went to Catholic schools I recognized from the old neighborhood.
Their story brought to mind a classic Irish Catholic neighbor of ours. Their family’s kids and ours played a lot together. I admire this Mom of seven children. Raised in a faithful Irish Catholic family herself, she did and does go to mass every morning.
As I reminisced, I thought, we know who we are and why we’re here. We are created by God to worship him and to serve others.
Back then both Catholic and Lutheran church bodies had strong institutions, especially with grade schools, high schools and universities. Those institutions are in retreat. The Catholic bishop of Cleveland closed or merged 50 parishes. In the Cleveland area, we lost four Lutheran grade schools in the past ten years, and the city congregations still remaining are barely hanging on.Read More